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Introduction

The Sun is the source of energy for most of life on Earth. As a star, the Sun is heated to high temperatures by the conversion of nuclear binding energy due to the fusion of hydrogen in its core. This energy is ultimately transferred (released) into space mainly in the form of radiant (light) energy.

In physics, energy is the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work on, or to heat, the object. Energy is a conserved quantity; the law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed. The SI unit of energy is the joule, which is the energy transferred to an object by the work of moving it a distance of 1 metre against a force of 1 newton.

Common forms of energy include the kinetic energy of a moving object, the potential energy stored by an object's position in a force field (gravitational, electric or magnetic), the elastic energy stored by stretching solid objects, the chemical energy released when a fuel burns, the radiant energy carried by light, and the thermal energy due to an object's temperature.

Mass and energy are closely related. Due to mass–energy equivalence, any object that has mass when stationary (called rest mass) also has an equivalent amount of energy whose form is called rest energy, and any additional energy (of any form) acquired by the object above that rest energy will increase the object's total mass just as it increases its total energy. For example, after heating an object, its increase in energy could be measured as a small increase in mass, with a sensitive enough scale.

Living organisms require exergy to stay alive, such as the energy humans get from food. Human civilization requires energy to function, which it gets from energy resources such as fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, or renewable energy. The processes of Earth's climate and ecosystem are driven by the radiant energy Earth receives from the sun and the geothermal energy contained within the earth.


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Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation. Global average air temperature rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.3 ± 0.32 °F) during the past century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes, 'most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.'

The effects of global warming are expected to include sea level rise, floods, drought and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Other effects may include changes in agricultural yields, reduced summer streamflows, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.

Concentrations of greenhouse gases are now considerably higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years, the extent of the ice core record. It is believed that CO2 concentrations were last this high 20 million years ago. The primary international agreement on combating global warming is the Kyoto Protocol, which covers more than 160 countries and over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The United States, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter; Australia; and Kazakhstan have refused to ratify the treaty. China and India, two other large emitters, have ratified the treaty but are exempt from cutting emissions. International talks on a successor to the treaty, which ends in 2012, have begun. Read more...


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Did you know?

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  • Saudi Aramco is the largest oil corporation in the world and the world's largest in terms of proven crude oil reserves and production?

Selected biography

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Enrico Mattei (1906 - 1962) was an Italian public administrator. After World War II he enlarged and reorganized Agip, the Italian Petroleum Agency established by the former Fascist regime, to create Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI), the National Fuel Trust. He also introduced the international principle whereby a country that owns oil reserves receives 75% of the profits from their exploitation, and helped break the oligopoly of the 'Seven Sisters' that dominated the mid 20th century oil industry.

Enrico Mattei was born in Acqualagna, the son of a carabiniere. At the age of 24 he moved to Milan, where he worked in various jobs and later joined the Resistenza and became a well known partisan. In 1945, the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale gave him instructions to close Agip; instead, he turned the company into one of the nation's major economic assets. When ENI was formed in 1953, subsuming Agip, Mattei became its president, then also the administrator and the general director. To break the oligopoly of the oil majors, Mattei initiated agreements with the poorest countries of the Middle East and with those of the Soviet bloc. He agreed a 50–50 partnership for extracting oil in Tunisia and Morocco, and offered Iran and Egypt that the risks of oil exploration would be entirely ENI's.

Behind the scenes, Mattei secretly financed the independence movement against colonialist France in the Algerian War, and was also alleged to have engaged in extensive bribery, especially of politicians and journalists. His death in a plane crash is claimed by some to have been murder. In 2000, the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline was named after him. Read more...


In the news

14 May 2019 – Saudi Arabia–Yemen relations, Yemeni Crisis (2011–present), Gulf of Oman incident
Two Saudi Aramco oil pumping stations are attacked in an apparent drone strike according to Saudi Arabia's Energy Ministry. The stations are linked to a pipeline transporting oil from the eastern fields to the western coast port of Yanbu on the Red Sea. (Associated Press) (Bloomberg)

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